How an artist fit 150 years of Collierville history into a single painting

It took two months of research and another month of painting before Evelina Dillon managed to put 150 years of Collierville history on a 40 by 40 inch canvas.

The Town Square Pavilion – Collierville’s youngest pavilion since there were three over the years – is the focus of the painting and shows the musicians taking part in Pickin ‘& Grinnin’ on Friday and Saturday nights.

Directly below is the number 1351 Frisco locomotive, which is stationed on the tracks in Town Square.

The painting was created for the 150th anniversary of Collierville and unveiled in City Hall on Monday.

For Dillon, a first generation immigrant from Uzbekistan who has lived in the Collierville region since the fall of 2014, her hope is that the painting will show what the people of Collierville have created over the past 150 years. Even when challenges arose – like the tornado painted over the pavilion or the weevil that destroyed the cotton industry – the people of Collierville stepped forward and overcame them.

“I hope people are excited, the people who built this city,” said Dillon. “Immediately after the civil war, the whole city was demolished. Every person who lived on every street had to repair their own street. When you’ve made a living on yours, fix it. There was nowhere else to go. Nobody made you do it. “

And they built or brought back whatever was depicted in their painting.

Evelina Dillon's Collierville painting Monday February 10, 2020 at the Morton Museum in Collierville.

There is the city’s bright red double-decker bus that was brought over from London. There’s a laptop there on a FedEx plane, one of the city’s largest employers. The bed and breakfast is also the oldest house in Collierville since it survived the city burned down during the Civil War.

Four of Collierville’s original churches are on display, including the Baptist Church in the square, which no longer exists. Both the new and old high schools are represented, as is a bright red Collierville Dragon.

The hardest part of the painting was the research, Dillon said. Clarene Pinkston Russell’s book, Collierville, Tennessee, Their People and Neighbors, provided a basis for much of it.

The book was fascinating, said Dillon, introducing her to many aspects of the city’s history – far too much to include in the painting.

Ultimately, she tried to incorporate known or significant features of the city that represented different aspects and eras of Collierville’s history, she said.

It was like a puzzle putting all the pieces together, said Dillon. She sketched different buildings and events, then moved them five to six times to see how they should fit or how big they should be.

The picture became simpler.

The Wolf River, which she called “the heart of Collierville”, winds above it.

Dillon created paintings to commemorate cities and events. In 2019, she won the Memphis Fine Art Poster competition in May marking the bicentenary of the city of Memphis.

In 2017 she won a competition organized by the Friends of the Morton Museum to help restore the number 1351 Frisco locomotive.

Then the residents of Collierville went door to door selling prints of that painting, she said. In doing so, she saw the same initiative as those who rebuilt their city years ago.

“People just did it,” she said. “You are still like this.”

Katherine Burgess covers the county government, religion, and suburbs. She can be reached at [email protected], 901-529-2799, or on Twitter @kathsburgess.

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